WILMINGTON — In an effort to get reacquainted with returning students and get to know new students, Principal Karen Long spent time in early September reading the book “Only One You” by Linda Kranz to all the students at Denver Place Elementary.
Long also admitted to students that while she recognized their faces, she really didn’t know all of their names because she never really tried to remember them. She told herself that 579 students were too many names to remember and convinced herself that she couldn’t do it, so she simply never tried.
As Long began preparing for the new school year and read Only One You, she read the words, “anything is possible, all you have to do is try,” and told herself that she could and she would learn all 579 names of the students at Denver by the end of September.
When speaking with Long in early September, she shared that she was teaching the staff and students about grit — hard work, perseverance and determination toward the achievement of a long-term goal.
“I’m setting the goal of learning their names,” said Long. “I don’t know them yet — not yet. But I will.”
Students also learned about setting goals to achieve something they were passionate about, and students and teachers both received bracelets that read, GOT GRIT and NOT YET.
Long wants her students and staff to know that, “With grit, we can grow our skills. And ‘not yet’ can become YES I WILL! YES I CAN! YES I AM!”
In addition to the lesson of setting goals, students also recreated the illustrations used in the “Only One You” book where decorated rocks were used to represent the characters of mama, papa, and little boy fish.
The generous donation of 600 rocks by McCarty Garden Center allowed every student, teacher, and member of the support, custodial, and kitchen staff to decorate a fish on a rock — each one unique. And now, Denver Place has its own school of fish on display between the flagpole and the Denver sign in front of the building.
According to Long, “These fish remind us as we come into school each day that just like the book Only One You teaches, we can make our school a better place, and that with grit, anything is possible.”
Throughout September, Long called upon her grit and her perseverance as she worked towards reaching her goal. Where in the past Long would greet students with a smile and a wave and say “Hi, Friend” she began making extra time to visit classrooms and chatted with students. She sat with students at lunch and chatted some more. She began stopping students in the hallway and asking them their names.
Of course the big question is, did Long reach her goal; does she know the names of all 579 students? When asked, her response to this question was, “Not yet,” as she held up her wrist and displayed her “Got Grit—Not Yet” bracelet.
“I’m still working on it,” she said with a smile of confidence and determination.
Students are supporting Long in reaching her goal, suggesting she take pictures and label them with students’ names and that she study last year’s yearbook. They know it takes grit — hard work, perseverance and determination to reach a “passionate grit goal” because they too have set goals and are working hard to achieve them. To further commit to their goals, students have covered part of the Denver hall ways with grit slips identifying their goals and the time they believe it will take to reach them.
In the end, Long hopes to achieve an even greater goal than learning the names of all of Denver students. She wants to instill in Denver’s students and staff that they should not be afraid to take risks or be wrong because being wrong will one day lead to being right.
Information for this article was provided by Diana Miller, who coordinates communications for several area schools.